Rare and unique individual. Wild Etruscan throwback, even to the edge of cruelty. Born in Brooklyn of Abruzzi parentage. Italian: intense, passionate, theatrical. A psyche bedeviled by profound contradictions. A mystery.
I find it hard to characterize Lucia. I never met anyone like her. In a culture awash in ugly objects, shoddy images, vacuous statements and ideas, ahe insisted on a daily environment where beauty was the predominant value, whether in such simple kitchen utensils as mixing bowls (worthy of still lifes), wooden spoons--I recall two, one like a short broad paddle; the other a long narrow handle ending in a small cup--delicate teapots, handpainted china; or, for the walls of her apartments, in the way she selected and placed paintings, etchings from her own work or by others, shadow puppets, posters, mirrors; or in her many and varied objets; or in her interesting collections of books and records reflecting earlier, even childhood selves, as well as later matamorphoses. No one else I know returning in dreams to rented places habitually encountered delightful surprises. In one of Lucia’s dreams she found a new door, opened it at sunrise, stepped out onto a path, and there a short distance ahead lay the Mediterranean.
Lucia had many friends. She gave much. She would spend hours searching for a beautiful room for a friend’s stay in Florence. She was very vulnerable. She was vibrant, vivid, so alive. She wrestled with Death, and among her last words were, “I can’t win, I can’t win!”
Apart from her commitments to individuals, to Ernst Hacker, her husband and fellow artist, to various lovers, and to her friends, the governing commitments of Lucia’s life were in the arts and to political action. A Feminist, a Vietnam War protester, an anti-nuclear activist, she was on the board of the War Resisters League, and a founding member of Women Against the Pentagon. Arrested in Washington with fellow marchers, out of her pocket to read aloud in jail emerged a well-thumbed copy of Proust!
I loved Lucia. I love some of her works, particularly those made from Florence or Venice, oils, monoprints, collages; as well as many still lifes painted in New York. In Florence she abstracted as structural elements architectural features of the city, the Brunelleschi dome of the Duomo; the tower of the Palazzo Vecchio; the view from her apartment window of the rooftop of Santa Croce. She often used such elements in small oils or collages where intense color fields with abstracted skyline forms combined to give the works a magical fairy-tale quality. In Venice water is the determining and differentiating element, a city in a water-world, a palace or church on an island lapped by the waters of the Adriatic. A painterly painter: always subtle and alive in her brushwork and color.
In her Westbeth studio after her death, I saw a number of large canvases of herself. A Valkyrie, a figurehead for a Viking ship’s prow, a Victory (unwinged), a nude seductress wearing pearls. In these Lucia had not sized down her imaginative self projections to the visual keyboards of art lovers. Later self portraits are more effective works of art. More human, less mythic. But there was something extraordinary about Lucia, something magical in her particular combination of charm, intelligence, and artistic sensitivity. I have several portrait heads and also a still life with a mirror image, concealed at first glance, of the hidden secretive Psyche who trysting with Eros is forbidden to light a torch. Pace Lucia.